Thursday, December 31, 2020
The chart above is from a NPR / Ipsos Poll -- done on December 21st and 22nd of a national sample of 1,115 adults, with a 4.8 point margin of error. The results were very disappointing. It showed a significant portion of the population believes ridiculous conspiracy theories.
And that is going very slowly. The Trump administration predicted they would have tens of millions of people vaccinated by the end of December. But only slightly more than 2 million have actually been vaccinated. That's pitiful.
The Trump administration badly mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic. Now they seem to be badly mishandling the vaccination of the American people.
But in Texas (and probably a lot of other states), that is simply not true. The Texas Attorney General has ruled that the law does not require police to intervene when it's an officer breaking the law.
That must change! The law must apply to ALL people, including the police -- or it cannot be respected.
The editorial board of the San Antonio Express-News is calling for the Texas legislature to clarify Texas law -- making it the duty of all police to intervene when an officer is breaking the law. Here is part of their editorial:
Don’t police officers have a duty to uphold the law and protect lives, even when it means taking action against one of their own?
Texas lawmakers must make the answer clear when they convene next month.
The place to start is with the George Floyd Act, legislation that proposes a ban on chokeholds like the one that killed Floyd, a change in qualified immunity doctrines that shield even bad officers from lawsuits over their conduct, and a requirement that police intervene when a fellow officer is using excessive force.
Introduced by the Legislative Black Caucus, the bill is expected to be the focal point for debate on statewide police reforms in the wake of Floyd’s death and the weeks of national protests over police brutality.
The issue of how to hold police accountable for failing to act against a fellow officer became more crucial when state Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion this month that Texas law does not include “an absolute duty for an officer to intervene” to stop another officer from violating the rights of a citizen.
The opinion was requested by Rep. James White, the only Republican member of the Black Caucus, who told Houston Chronicle reporter Taylor Goldenstein that the response underscores the need for legal clarity. He was surprised the duty wasn’t already clear. . . .
The city of Dallas and other departments implemented similar rules after Floyd’s death, but Texas legislators have the chance not only to make the policy statewide but to give it the force of law and mandate training to back it up and hold departments accountable.
Individual department policies alone are not enough. Minneapolis police added a duty-to-intervene policy in 2016 but that didn’t save Floyd’s life four years later. . . .
Lawmakers also should make sure these changes are fully supported by resources for training, which should be included in the long-overdue changes to the outdated and inadequate oversight of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.
As with many of the proposed police reforms, a duty to intervene will require changing the culture. A statute would empower officers who want to do the right thing but may fear being accused of “ratting out” a colleague or breaking the chain of command. . . .
Enshrining the duty to intervene into Texas law is a no-brainer for anyone who truly wants to get the bad cops off the streets and help the good ones do their jobs.
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
The charts above reflect the results of a new Huffington Post / YouGov Poll -- done between December 17th and 20th of a national sample of 1,000 registered voters, with a 5.6 point margin of error.
It shows that the voters want Joe Biden and the congressional Republicans to compromise to get some things done for the good of the country. They think Biden will try to compromise with the Republicans by an 11 point margin. But they think the GOP will not compromise with Biden by a whopping 31 point margin,
They are probably right. So far, the Republicans have shown no desire to compromise at all.
On this blog, I have called Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) "the stupidest man in Congress" many times. It looks like Gohmert wants to prove that is true. He has now sued the vice-president of his own party in an effort to make him violate the rules and declare Donald Trump the winner of the 2020 election when Congress meets next week.
Here's part of how Kyle Cheney reports Gohmert's crazy lawsuit at Politico.com:
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and President Donald Trump's defeated electors from Arizona may force Vice President Mike Pence to publicly pick a side in Trump’s bid to overturn his 2020 election loss.
Gohmert and a handful of the would-be electors sued Pence in federal court on Monday in a long-shot bid to throw out the rules that govern Congress' counting of electoral votes next week. It’s an effort they hope will permit Pence — who is tasked with leading the Jan. 6 session of the House and Senate — to simply ignore President-elect Joe Biden's electors and count Trump's losing slates instead.
The lawsuit asserts that the 1887 law known as the Electoral Count Act, the vague statute that has long governed the electoral vote counting process with minimal drama, unconstitutionally binds Pence from exercising total authority to choose which votes to count.
"Under the Twelfth Amendment, Defendant Pence alone has the exclusive authority and sole discretion to open and permit the counting of the electoral votes for a given state, and where there are competing slates of electors, or where there is objection to any single slate of electors, to determine which electors’ votes, or whether none, shall be counted," the suit contends.
The lawsuit comes before Judge Jeremy Kernodle, a Trump appointee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. It's unclear if he'll grant the request for an expedited judgment.
Though the lawsuit itself is unlikely to gain legal traction, it does put Pence in the position of having to either contest the suit — putting him on the opposite side of Trump and his GOP defenders — or support it and lay bare the intention to subvert the will over the voters in the 2020 election.
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Trump has finally signed the stimulus bill that would give most Americans a $600 check. But while signing it, he once again called on Congress to increase the $600 payment to $2000.
That puts the congressional members of his own party between a rock and a hard place. They are the ones that demanded the payments be reduced to only $600, and refused to vote for a bill with larger payments (which Democrats wanted). Are they going to go against Trump (and risk his wrath)? Or are they going to kill the $2000 payments before it can become law?
The House voted on raising the payments to $2000 on Monday. They needed a two-thirds majority to pass the bill (House Resolution 9051) -- and they got it. They won on a 275 to 134 vote. 41 Republicans voted with the Democrats (evidently unwilling to explain to their voters, and Trump, why they would vote against it). Another 21 Republicans didn't vote. That was enough to get the Democratic bill passed.
Now the bill moves over to the Senate. The Senate resumes on Tuesday, and they will have to decide what to do with the bill. If a Senator votes against the bill, they will have to explain why to their constituents (and Trump)? If they vote for it, they will be going against the wishes of their party leadership.
McConnell may try to avoid having a vote on the bill, but I doubt that will work. Americans are going to want to know why the Republicans oppose the bill, and by not voting on the bill all GOP senators will be blamed.
It will be interesting to see what happens. Trump has screwed his fellow Republicans with his demand. What will they do?
During his time in the White House, Donald Trump has done a lot of stupid things. Personally, I wouldn't know how to winnow that long list down to only ten. But Amanda Marcotte has taken on that monuments task at Salon.com. Here is the list she has come up with:
Here's a list of the 10 most jaw-droppingly stupid moments of Trump's White House tenure.
1) That time Trump suggested injecting household cleaners into people's lungs to cure them of the coronavirus.
2) That time he looked at a solar eclipse without eye protection — after everyone was repeatedly told not to look at the eclipse without eye protection.
3) That time he couldn't admit he was wrong when he tweeted that Hurricane Dorian was going to hit Alabama, and so he drew on a weather map with a Sharpie to make it seem like he was right.
4) That time he threw paper towels at people in Puerto Rico who had just endured Hurricane Maria.
5) That time he asked members of the National Security Council if they could nuke hurricanes rather than letting them hit the U.S.
6) That time Trump was told to talk about Frederick Douglass at a Black History Month event, clearly had no idea who that was, and while trying to bullshit his way through the talk, implied that Douglass was still alive.
7) That time he suggested that his much-desired border wall could just maybe be buttressed with alligator moats.
8) That time he asked Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, "Didn't you guys burn down the White House?"
9) That time Trump "liked" a tweet praising Rihanna.
10) When he called the Second Epistle to the Corinthians "Two Corinthians."
So there's your top 10, with the caveat that it was hard — perhaps impossible — to narrow down that number in a satisfying manner, since Trump has done unbelievably stupid crap virtually every single day for four years. But that's why the internet gods invented social media and comment sections, so you can add your own to the list!
The first stimulus bill was tilted toward the corporations and large businesses, leaving many small businesses out in the cold and giving most Americans $1200. The second stimulus is even stingier for most people -- giving them only $600 this time. But the rich will once again score big. There are $200 billion in tax breaks in the bill -- with $120 billion going to the top 1%.
Here's how former Labor Secretary Robert Reich describes the unfair stimulus bill:
Monday, December 28, 2020
The United States became the world's largest economy in the 1920's, and for about a century that has remained true. But it is going to end soon. By about 2028, China (currently the second largest national economy) will become the largest, and the United States will drop to number two.
Here's how Bloomberg reports this:
The Chinese economy is set to overtake the U.S. faster than previously anticipated after weathering the coronavirus pandemic better than the West, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research.
The world’s biggest and second-biggest economies are on course to trade places in dollar terms in 2028, five years earlier than expected a year ago, it said on Saturday.
In its World Economic League Table, the consultancy also calculated that China could become a high-income economy as soon as 2023. Further cementing Asia’s growing might, India is set to move up the rankings to become the No. 3 economy at the end of the decade.
The chart above shows the number of NCIS background checks for firearm sales the FBI was asked to do for the years of 2019 and 2020. The numbers for December of 2020 have not been reported yet, but the other eleven months of 2020 all were higher than the same month in 2019. In other words, firearm sales were significantly more in 2020 than in 2019. That's not good, considering there were already more than enough guns in American society for every American to have one.
We have too much gun violence in the United States because there are too many guns, and the laws allow anyone who wants one to have one (including criminals and terrorists). And according to this chart, it is just getting worse.
NOTE -- The orange bars are for 2019, and the red bars are for 2020.
Here's part of how Caren White describes it at medium.com:
Politico is reporting that based on his recent behavior, both mental health professionals and Trump’s niece, who is also a mental health professional and has had the chance to observe him for years as a family member, fear that Trump is having a mental breakdown.
I am not a mental health professional nor am I family member, but based on my own observations of Trump’s behavior since the 1980s, my opinion is that what we are seeing is actually pretty normal behavior for Trump.
You cannot judge Trump based on normal behavior. He has never lived a normal life like you and me so his behavior, i.e. coping skills, are not the same as everyone else. And while those life skills might be judged as abnormal for the general population, they have worked for him and helped him achieve success for more than 70 years.
What you have to understand about Trump is that his wealth has insulated him from reality. He has always lived in a bubble surrounded by people who tell him that he is the greatest, the smartest, the richest. He has never lived in the real world like other people.
Any time that reality has intruded on his fantasy world, he has always been able to escape any consequences. And because he has never had to suffer any consequences, he believes that he is invincible.
Even his numerous bankruptcies have had no personal consequences for him. The banks would write off the losses and stop lending to him. Trump never realized that banks routinely write off bad loans. They consider it the cost of doing business. In his mind, he “won”, i.e. didn’t have to pay the loans.
His fortune allowed him to hire an army of lawyers and accountants whose only job was to help him cheat, the only way he knows to get ahead, and then to protect him from any consequences.
Even the way he ran his company would be considered aberrant by normal standards. He routinely stiffed contractors and lenders, illegal behaviors that would get most CEOs fired. Trump is not the CEO of his company. He is the owner. You can’t fire the owner.
Owning his own company allowed Trump to live in an alternate reality. He surrounded himself with a group of fawning underlings who stroked his ego and unquestioningly followed his orders no matter if they were illegal. He made the rules. Their job was to follow them.
This is why he had so many problems as president. He didn’t understand that he couldn’t run the government the way that he ran his company. I wasn’t shocked when he violated norms and tried to take illegal actions. That was how he ran his company for years. He thought that he could continue making up his own rules and breaking the laws as it suited him as president.
It’s why he fired so many people. He didn’t understand that government officials, staff and cabinet members were not his employees, obligated only to him. So he kept hiring and firing until he found people who would act like employees, adopt his fantasies and implement his policies.
Which is how he ended up where he is now, hunkered down in the White House, surrounded by a bunch of whackos, strategizing how he can overturn the results of the election. This may not be normal for the rest of us, but it is perfectly normal for him. He isn’t having a mental breakdown. He is continuing the behavior that has worked for him his entire life. . . .
He envisions hanging on to power in the Republican party, becoming a kingmaker, choosing who will run and who will be primaried.
And when that doesn’t happen, when he loses power and prestige as is normal for ex-presidents, that is when he will have a mental breakdown. His company is losing money and he has $420 million in debt coming due. He will no longer have the financial wherewithal to keep up the fantasy. He will be forced to face the same reality as the rest of us, where he is a washed up old man who has to answer for his numerous tax and business frauds. That is when he will have his mental breakdown.
Sunday, December 27, 2020
AP news is reporting that retailers are expecting shoppers to return twice as many items this year than they did in 2019. It will be about $1.1 billion of returns. Part of those returns will be because of a wrong size or bad color, etc. But that can't account for a doubling of returned items.
Part of it has to be because of the recession -- and the government's refusal to help hurting people. Many people will find they need the money much more than they needed the gifts (no matter how much they liked and appreciated the gifts).
Much of the pain of this recession is because the federal government (mainly the Trump administration) badly mishandled the Coronavirus pandemic. It's time for the federal government to step up and help the people it hurt the most.
The following is part of a thought-provoking article by Sinan Antoon in The Washington Post. Sadly, he points out that Americans don't seem to care about the innocent Iraqi victims of violence -- much of it from American soldiers and mercenaries.
We know too well by now where President Trump stands when innocent civilians are harmed or slaughtered. He has repeatedly stood firmly on the side of perpetrators — applauding, defending and, if necessary, vindicating them. Whether the perpetrator is a neo-Nazi in Charlottesville, a police officer in Minneapolis, or a Blackwater mercenary in Baghdad.
It was despicable, but not surprising at all, that Trump this week pardonedthe four mercenaries who were convicted of slaughtering 14 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square in Baghdad in 2007. This is not the first time Trump has pardoned individuals convicted of war crimes in Iraq. A year ago, he pardoned Edward Gallagher, a Navy Seal convicted of committing horrendous war crimes in Mosul. Trump later welcomed Gallagher and his wife to Mar-a-Lago.
In Trump’s world, men of a certain race, in uniform or not, carrying weapons and eager to use lethal force as they see fit to reimpose order on a chaotic world, are merely “doing their jobs.” Those on the other side of the barrel are painted as thugs or barbarians. Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater (now Academi), has called Iraqis “barbarians.” Impunity for pulling the trigger is to be expected. The perpetrators become the victims and the focal point of empathy and understanding.
The massacre at Nisour Square took place in the context of the Iraq War. And it is not an aberration, but one in a long list of massacres of innocent Iraqi civilians. From the massacre of 24 civilians in Haditha in 2005, to the gang rape and murder of 14-year-old Abeer Qassim al-Janabi and the murder of her family in Mahmudiyah in 2006, to killing an estimated 45 people at a wedding party at Mukaradeeb in 2004. These and other massacres were courtesy of uniformed soldiers, not mercenaries. . . .
It is facile to condemn Trump, but do the lives of Iraqi civilians matter as much, or at all, for most of those who will condemn this pardon? Iraqi lives certainly didn’t matter at all for the George W. Bush-era hawks who beat the drums of the war and supported it, and who have since rebranded themselves as part of the resistance in the Trump era. Iraqi lives didn’t matter for all the liberal pundits and scribes who joined the war chorus as they, too, parroted variations on the official narrative before and during the war from their platforms. . . .
Whether visible or invisible, waged under a Republican or a Democratic administration, the war’s civilian casualties remain, for all intents and purposes, invisible. Those that briefly make a rare appearance, every now and then, quickly disappear into the vast landscape of American amnesia — a landscape already crowded with other bodies, indigenous and Black, that rarely seem to matter.
The architects, authors and chief perpetrators of the Iraq wars were pardoned in the public eye years ago. Their public appearances in the Trump era are unencumbered by the memory of their catastrophic decisions and actions, instead stirring liberal nostalgia for more “civil” and “normal” times. . . .
Amid the anger and shock over Trump’s latest pardon of war criminals, let’s not forget that there is already plenty of impunity to go around, as well as generous pardons, not only for those who pulled triggers killing innocent Iraqis, but for those who pulled the discursive triggers, too.
Saturday, December 26, 2020
As if 2020 hadn't been bad enough, we have a terrorist act to cap it off. Someone intentionally set off a bomb in Nashville. Fortunately, no one was killed. But there were people injured and substantial damage. I have to wonder if this is a result of Trump's refusal to accept the outcome of the election, and his approval of some of his right-wing supporters. Is this the opening salvo in the civil war Trump is trying hard to start?
Here is initial coverage from AP News:
Friday, December 25, 2020
People have been celebrating a holiday at or near the Winter Solstice for thousands of years. For some it's a religious holiday. For others, it's a secular celebration. However you celebrate the season's holiday, I hope it is a happy and safe one for you and your family/friends.
It shows that half of registered voters think history will judge the Trump presidency to be a failure. Only 29% think it will be viewed as great or good.
Instead, he is wholly concerned with trying to remain in power. He has tried to bully election officials, gone to court about 60 times to overturn election results, and appealed to state legislators.
None of that has worked. Now he is only left with extra-legal actions -- like trying to pull off a military coup. And he does have some around him, like the criminal Michael Flynn, who is urging him to do exactly that.
Trump has always admired autocrats, like Putin, and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he may resort to such extreme measures to remain in power. I doubt he could succeed in pulling off a military coup -- but it's terrifying that any president would even consider doing that.
Here is a small part of Joe Duncan has to say about this at medium.com:
If you’re not slightly terrified, filled with a state of unease at the present moment, you should be. . . .
If there was ever a time that many of our fears would be most likely to materialize, this would be it. As President Trump scrambles to buy time and figure out a way to overturn the legitimate election that unseated him, the President who’s shared all of the traditional hallmarks of the autocratic tendency is looking for any way to cling to power. And Trump has a lot of unsavory characters in his orbit these days.
Between Sidney Powell, the lawyer who stood in front of the nation and talked about “releasing the Kraken” before espousing a series of conspiracy theories that sought to explain why Trump lost the election; and Michael Flynn, the disgraced former National Security Advisor who now spends his free time talking about a military coup on live TV; it’s safe to say the better characters in Trump’s inner orbit have jumped ship. . . .
It seems like just days ago I was reporting on Michael Flynn’s live TV interview where he said the President could just install the military in the battleground states where he didn’t win, force them to hold another election — one where Trump, not Biden would win — and thus steal the election from the duly elected President-elect Joe Biden. . . .
Make no mistake, the stuff Michael Flynn has been talking about over the last few weeks are dangerous. He said Trump could give the order to steal voting machines in order to hold a new election, a mock election, functionally undoing the vote of the American People.
And Trump asked about the idea, poking around for details that might help him in his quest to remain president at all costs. . . .
For me, it’s hard to put myself into the mental state of the kind of person who would burn down the Republic because they couldn’t handle losing, but it seems that Trump, Flynn, Powell, and the surprising (read: alarming) amount of followers who’ve still clung to the Trump brand like a fading trend they’d invested their life savings on, are just those kinds of people. Incapable of accepting reality as it is.
The Republican Party Chair of Arizona is even urging Trump, in those words, to “cross the Rubicon,” an obvious reference to Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon River and starting of the Roman Civil War of 49 B.C. This is just one more statement in a long lineage of Confederate apologetics and civil war rhetoric. . . .
I think it’s just about next to impossible. Trump would have to find military generals willing to carry out such commands in his name. Here we’d have a draft dodger ordering career military to essentially undo the American nation. Something tells me that conversation wouldn’t go over so well. . . .
But it’s scary that Trump’s military coup moment has arrived and the discussions about such a coup are literally underway.